Mary Jane's Presence In Court Will manufacture Quite A Splash

Mary Jane’s Presence In Court Will manufacture Quite A Splash

Mary Jane’s Presence In Court Will Make Quite A Splash

(Photo by Staci Zaretsky)
A big Con Law 101 moment for 1Ls that has to be up there with realizing that slavery is still legal in the US (really, just do the contrapositive of the 13th amendment) is the entirety of standing doctrine. And it’s no surprise – they usually skip right past injury in fact in Law & Order murder cases, after all. But after Lujan, you start looking at the world and potential plaintiffs differently. Especially bodies of water you wouldn’t be surprised to discover are Rick James fans.
In an effort to protect herself, Mary Jane is suing. The lake has filed a case in Florida state court, together with Lake Hart, the Crosby Island Marsh, and two boggy streams. According to legal papers submitted in February, the development would “adversely impact the lakes and marsh who are parties to this action,” causing injuries that are “concrete, distinct, and palpable.”
While an elephant, a horse, and birds have been found to have standing in prior cases, these boundary-pushing plaintiffs were at least presumed sentient. Mary Jane’s suit, given that it is a literal body of water, is sui generis indeed. When it comes down to it, there are two main perspectives:
a) “It is long past time to recognize that we are dependent on nature, and the continued destruction of nature needs to stop,” Mari Margil, the executive director of the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights, said in a statement celebrating the lawsuit.
b) “Your local lake or river could sue you?” the Florida Chamber of Commerce said. “Not on our watch.”
Where do you stand on the matter? How far removed is a river having standing really once you factor in that corporations are people and there have already been generations of trees that have owned themselves? For what it’s worth, my job will be made a lot more interesting if I can count on the Delaware filing toxic tort cases against the businesses at its bank. The philosophical implications of either granting or recognizing inherent rights that inanimate objects possess will spawn many papers, essays, and law review notes I plan on reading but never will. Hopefully it would invite some feedback from our readers as well. Tell me what you think about Mary Jane’s court appearance at
A Lake in Florida Suing to Protect Itself [New Yorker]
Mary Jane's Presence In Court Will Make Quite A SplashChris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor MemelordTM in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at and by tweet at @WritesForRent.


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